Our digestive systems can have a hard time over Christmas with all that rich food, irregular mealtimes, alcohol, late nights and stress. It’s not surprising that many of us start the new year feel a bit delicate in the digestive region.
If you’re one of them, why not commit to developing new habits that improve your digestive health for the year ahead? It could make a huge difference to the way you feel in and about yourself.
Here are our top 8 Dos and Don’ts for a happy healthy tummy this new year…
Eat a high fibre diet – Eating plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and pulses provides a rich source of fibre in your diet which keeps food moving through your digestive system and prevents constipation. It can help you to maintain a healthy weight and may help prevent problems such as haemorrhoids, diverticulosis and irritable bowel syndrome. Experts recommend eating around 25 grams of fibre a day.
Drink plenty of water – This is important for helping to prevent constipation and for optimum body function.
Pass stools when you need to – Ignoring the urge to go to the toilet increases the risk of constipation as the longer a stool is held in the rectum the more water is absorbed from it. Passing hard stools can cause tearing in the anal canal (fissures) which may require medical treatment. Repeatedly ignoring the urge to go to the toilet can lead to a loss of sensation in the rectum, which may cause chronic constipation.
Attend screening appointments – Most people with bowel cancer who are diagnosed in the earliest stages can be successfully treated. Bowel cancer screening is a way of picking up early signs of the disease before there may be any symptoms. If you receive a routine bowel cancer screening appointment it is important to attend. These are offered to people over the age of 60 in England and 50 in Scotland. Alternatively, you can arrange private bowel cancer screening at any age.
Smoke – Smoking is linked to an increased risk of cancers of the stomach, oesophagus, mouth and pancreas. It also exacerbates other disorders of the digestive system such as Crohn’s disease, and is associated with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), heartburn and peptic ulcers.
Eat late at night – Ideally, you should not eat for two to three hours before bedtime. This is because lying down can cause acid to be pushed upwards into your oesophagus causing acid reflux and heartburn. Over time this can lead to GORD and other more serious conditions.
Drink too much alcohol – This can stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and may cause discomfort and diarrhoea. It can contribute to the development of stomach ulcers.
Overeat – That familiar feeling of having eaten or drunk too much is a signal that our digestive system is not happy. Overeating can lead to acid reflux and bloating. It is better to eat smaller more frequent meals. You should also avoid eating too quickly as this can cause you to swallow air as you eat which can lead to belching and feeling bloated.